By John Denny
It’s been a long time since I last worked on a political campaign, and — to be completely honest — considering the current state of politics in this country, I’m perfectly fine never working on one again.
Nonetheless, many of the things I’ve learned from political campaigns are still applicable to the civic campaigns we run here at Denny Civic Solutions. When I worked in D.C. for the political consulting firm Eddie Mahe and Associates, I was introduced to the “message grid.” Basically, it is a box broken into four quadrants, used by political candidates to list:
- What I would tell my audience about me;
- What I would tell my audience about my opponent;
- What I believe my opponent would tell the audience about her or himself;
- And, most importantly, what I believe my opponent will tell people about me.
Jeremy Porter Communications, a New York-based firm, offers a really good and clear explanation of the importance of a message grid. As Jeremy points out, the grid helps you define the overall narrative of the campaign by defining yourself and your opponent first.
One example of a time we successfully deployed a message grid was the effort, managed by Denny Civic Solutions, to rename the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare to the Department of Human Services. For that message grid, we defined all the positive reasons for the change, like pointing out that 70% of the Department’s funding goes towards supporting senior citizens needing long-term care – i.e., not “welfare.”
We also anticipated the opposition’s argument that changing the name would cost too much in terms of updating letterhead, signage, forms, etc. This allowed the campaign to put the most positive message (and messengers) front and center – and take preventive measures to eclipse our opponents’ arguments.
Here are several more samples from Jeremy Porter’s website of what a good messaging grid might look like.